Athleisure company Lululemon has launched an investigation into reports of abuse and violent working conditions at a supplier’s factory in Bangladesh.
The Canadian brand sent employees to the factory to speak to workers following reports of female workers being “humiliated and physically assaulted” in a Guardian investigation.
Lululemon said it was working with an “independent non-profit third party” to investigate the exploitation and violence claimed by female workers.
The Guardian reported that female workers “gave detailed accounts of how they struggled to survive on meagre wages and faced physical violence and regular humiliation at the hands of their managers, who called them ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’.”
A Lululemon spokesperson told SM: “We take these allegations very seriously and we are committed to a full, independent investigation. Members of Lululemon’s social responsibility and production team visited the factory in Bangladesh immediately to speak with workers and learn more.
“While our production at this factory is extremely limited, we will ensure workers are protected from any form of abuse and are treated fairly.”
The factory, which supplies leggings to Lululemon, is owned and run by the Youngone Corporation, according to the Guardian.
Anna Bryher, advocacy director for the campaign group Labour Behind the Label, told SM that brands must “support proactive engagement to prevent gender-based violence directed at production line workers, and empower women to have a constructive voice at work”.
“We support the Asia Floor Wage Alliance in their work to promote a 'safe circle' approach to help develop dialogue and eliminate violence in fast fashion.”
Bryher added: “Women at the bottom of supply chains bear the brunt of fashion’s unrelenting push to be fast and cheap. As outrageous as this story is, this isn’t a one off. Women making our clothes in Bangladesh are routinely and systematically abused and harassed.
“According to a recent survey [by Actionaid], 80% of Bangladeshi workers making our clothes said they had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
“Huge economic pressures on supply chains to produce faster and quicker means factories are under increasing pressure, and male supervisors respond. This dynamic must change and brands need to act.”
A spokesperson from campaign group Fashion Revolution told SM: “We want every single fashion brand to ensure that the workers in their supply chain, from the fibre to finished garment, have the right to unionise. We know that collective bargaining is key in enabling workers to secure a living wage, and to protect them against gender-based violence and discrimination.”
Fashion Revolution highlighted the importance of government legislation when tackling modern slavery: “As a Canadian company, Lululemon is not currently held to any modern slavery legislation, such as the Acts that have been adopted in the UK and Australia.
“We encourage all countries, especially those that import the vast majority of the clothes they sell, to introduce modern slavery legislation that protects workers not just locally, but around the globe.”
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